Northern Italian Wines
A SMALL SELECTION OF FINE WINES FROM NORTHERN ITALY
Terms to know:
DOC Denominazione d’origine controllata: Controlled Denomination of Origin, analogous to Appelation Controllée in France
DOCG Denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita: Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin, more prestigious
IGT Indicazione Geografica Tipica: Typical Geographical Designation, theoretically a lower distinction, equivalent to Vin de Pays in France, but ironically applied to some of the most sought-after and expensive wines that depart from DOC regulations.
Tenuta Sarcinelli Isonzo DOC Friulano 2013 $19
Friuli is a hilly region to the north and northeast of Venice along the Adriatic. It is best
known for white varietals, especially some also grown in France. The Friulano has been
cultivated since 1600 and was known as Tocai until 2007, when the EU banned the name to
protect Hungarian Tokaji. It is also known as Sauvignon vert but is not related to Sauvignon
The Sarcinelli family, local nobility in the Isonzo Valley on the Adriatic, founded the
estate in 1867. Winemaking is traditional but they use modern temperature controlled steel
tanks for fermentation. They cultivate 4 white varieties including Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon,
but Friulano is most characteristic of the region. This wine comes from a single 1 hectare
vineyard of 70-year-old vines. The grapes macerated first for 4 days at low temperature and
then are vinified for 12 days and aged on part of the lees for 9 months.
Scacciadiavoli Grechetto Umbria IGT 2014 $14
As the name suggests, this variety was once thought to have come from Greece in acient
times, a legend that recent DNA research does not support. It is widely planted mostly as a
blending grape, but in Umbria, thought blended with other varieties to make DOC Orvieto, it is
often found as a varietal by itself.
The Azienda Scacciadiavoli was founded in 1884 by and Umbrian Prince. Since 1954 it
has belonged to the Pambufetti family and now comprises 35 hectares of vines within the
Montefalco denomination, producing 250,000 bottles a year. Their main claims to fame are red
wines from the Sagrantino variety, but they also grow Grechetto for blending with Trebbiano
and Chardonnay to make DOC Montefalco bianco and to bottle on its own.
Cantina Sassarini “Cian du Corsü” Cinque Terre DOC 2013 $21
The denomination Cinque Terre is in the dramatic, nearly inaccessible, rugged terrain
along the Mediterranean coast about 50 miles southeast of Genoa near La Spezia.
Natale Sasserini started producing wine in Monterosso in 1968 and now cultivates about
20 hectares. Now his son Giancarlo and daughter-in-law Marizia run the estate. This is a blend
of local varieties Bosco (60%), Albarola and Vermentino from grapes, as stipulated by the DOC
rules, grown on steep terraces facing the sea. The Sasserinis also produce commerically olive
oil, anchovies, olives, grappa and pesto.
Tenuta Mazzolino Chardonnay “Camarà” IGT 2013 $16
Not as well known as many other wine regions in Italy, Lombardy actually produces 28
million gallons of still and sparkling wines a year, more than Friuli or Umbria. More than half
comes from this region on the right bank of the Po River, a district that is most famous for its
DOCG sparkling wines made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, perhaps the country’s finest. A
great variety of other DOC and IGT wines are made from French and Italian grapes.
The Braggiotti family took over this estate south of Pavia in 1980 and grew the estate to
22 hectares planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay along with some Bonarda, Moscato, and
Cabernet Sauvignon. This estate-grown unoaked Chardonnay is hand harvested in small
baskets, gently pressed, racked successively to separate it from the lees, and then fermented in
stainless vats, then kept in vats until spring when it is cold-stabilized before bottling.
The Valpolicella area is a 45 kilometer line of hills north of Verona, benefitting from
exposure to sun and the moderating effect of Lake Garda. The wines must be a blend of at least
3 varieties, Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara, the most important being Corvina.
The flagship wines of this region are Amarone (dry) and Recioto (sweet), which are basically
rich, concentrated and long-lived wines made wholly or partly from grapes that have been
dried to raisins over the winter. Ripasso, a specialty unique to Valpolicella, is sort of a hand-
me-down wine, which goes through a second fermentation on dried grape skins from which
Amarone or Recioto have been made. .
Zeni “Marogne” Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2013 $19
The family firm is located in Bardolino on the eastern side of Lake Garda and produces
wine in several appellations from their own vineyards, long-term leased land and grapes
purchased from local growers.
Zardini Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso DOCG 2013 $19
The estate has been in the family since 1800. The current owner, Pietro Zardini, took
over in 2000. The blend is 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 5% Molinara, and 5% other grapes.
The grapes, grown in soil mainly marl and basalt, are hand harvested, then vinified in tanks for
up to 20 days. Then the wine is bassed successively over the lees from Amarone for a month,
then aged in large and small barrels for 2 to 3 years, then held in stainless tanks until bottling.
Tommasi “Arele Appassimento” Veronese IGT 2013 $20
Arele is named for the wooden trays used to dry the grapes from which this wine is
made. This is the same process used to make Amarone. The wine is mostly Corvina, with
some Orseleta, Rondinella and Merlot.
The Tommasi family started in the wine producing business in 1902 in Valpolicella
Classica. Now besides their estate in the Veneto, their far-flung enterprises comprise vineyards
in Lombardy and Puglia, as well as Montalcino and Maremma in Tuscany. Most of the grapes
for this wine come from hillside vineyards in the Valpolicella Classica region at altitudes of
900-1000 feet. About a third of the grapes are dried for 25 days, then fermented and aged 12
months in Slovenian oak casks.
Tommasi Poggia al tufo “Rompicollo” Toscana IGT 2012 $20
Maremma is a region of gently rolling hills in the the southwest corner of Tuscany on the
Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas, with exposures similar to the vineyards of the Médoc, which
were the inspiration for a movement to produce quality wines in this area in the 1940s that
eventually produced the “Super Tuscan” cult wine Sassicaia, the only estate to have its own
This wine, from the Tommasi family’s Maremma estate, is named for the single vineyard
on volcanic soil where the grapes are grown. It is a blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Cabernet
Sauvignon vinified 10 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, then aged 12 months
in large Slovenian oak casks,
Tenuta di Capraia Chianti Classico DOCG 2011 $19
The Chianti region covers a large part of Tuscany from the neighborhood of Florence
west to the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian seas. It comprises 7 subzones that combine the name
Chianti with a specific geographical designation. Chianti Classico refers to the central, oldest
and most genuine Chianti district, stretching south of Florence as far as Siena. The basic grape
is Sangiovese, but it is typically blended small amounts of other local varieties, but now
notably, since DOC rules were relaxed, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Tenuta di Capraia is documented since the 10th century and has been in the hands of
noble Tuscan families throughout its history. It is located in Castellina, in the heart of Chianti
Classico. The vineyard that produces Capraia’s classico is about 1000 feet above sea level. The
wine is 90% Sangiovese with 5% each of Cabernet and Merlot. Grapes are destemmed and
vinified for 10-12 days and then matured for 12 months in large and small barrels then blended
in stainless vats. After a light filtration, the finished wine is aged for 6 months in the bottle
Rocca Giovanni Barbera d’Alba “Pianroualdo” DOC 2013 $19
Barbera is a grape, not a region, and is now estimated to be the third most planted grape
in Italy. In the Piedmont it amounts to half the vines planted. Some of the best wines come
from vineyards around the villages of Alba and Asti, which have their own DOCs. Barberas do
not compete with the great Nebbiolos of Barolo and Barbaresco, but they are generous, varied
in style, and great value.
This wine is produced from 100% barbera plnated from a vineyard planted in 1958 on
marly limestone with southeastern exposure. It is vinified for 8 to 10 days, then aged in 250
liter barriques for 10 months and in bottle for 7 months. The estate has 22 acres of vines located
in Monforte d’Alba, which is in the Barolo district. It produces about 80,000 bottles of Barbera,
Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Chardonnay as well as some Barolo. It is owned by the third generation
of the Rocca family, Giovanni and Caterina
Terre di Bò Barbaresco 2011 $22
Wines of the DOCG Barbaresco are produced from Nebbiolo grapes grown in 4
communes to the east of the town of Alba on marl and limestone soil. They are aged for 2 years
before release, at least 1 year in oak. The riserva, which we are not tasting, is aged 4 years. It
really should be allowed to cellar for few more years for the tannin to resolve and the notes of
cherries, violets, roses, truffle and anise to develop fully.
Anzivino Viticoltori in Gattinara 2008 $20
Gattinara DOCG takes its name from the commune in which the grapes are grown, in the
northern Piedmont, more or less due west of Milan. It is made from at least 90% nebbiolo
(locally known as spanna), with a complement of Vespolina and Bonarda.
Emanuele Anzivino moved here from Milan in 1999, took over an abandoned distillery,
outfitted it with modern equipment, and created his estate of 14 hectares, half of which is in the
Gattinara DOCG. This bottling is specially prepared for Monsieur Touton. They hold the
wines for release until they are 6 years old.
Note: Prices are estimated full-price retail based on normal markup. Serious wine shops will
be selling them for less.